Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Medicine

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has been consistently documented as highly effective in teaching participants to become more responsible in the management of their own health, vitality and healing. Two decades of published research (see "References" below) indicates that the majority of people who complete the MBSR Program report lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms.  The studies report:

The research supporting these results is extensive and ongoing at numerous universities, medical schools and private sector research groups.  In the interest of brevity, research on Chronic Pain, Anxiety and Depression conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center (UMASS) will be highlighted in addition to the Brain and Immune Functioning Studies recently published and currently being investigated.

In the pain studies, people with chronic pain such as headaches, back pain, neck pain and fibromyalgia who participated in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic reported a dramatic reduction in the average level of pain during the eight-week training period and for at least four years following the treatment.

An Outpatient Program in Behavioral Medicine for Chronic Pain Patients Based on the Practice of Mindfulness Meditation

Kabat-Zinn, J.
General Hospital Psychiatry



1/2 of patients => 50% decrease
2/3 of patients => 33% decrease
significant increase in life activities

Medical symptoms (MSCL):

1/2 of patients => 33% decrease
1/3 of patients => 50% decrease

Psychological symptoms (GSI):

1/2 of patients => 33% decrease
1/3 of patients => 50% decrease

Mood symptoms (TMD)

2/3 of patients => 50% decrease

3/4 of patients => 33% decrease

In another pain study, two groups of pain patients were compared. All 42 people in this study were being treated in the hospital’s pain clinic using standard medical protocols as well as supportive therapies such as physical therapy. But one group of 21 patients also participated in the MBSR program in addition to their pain clinic treatments, while the other group had not yet been referred to the stress clinic. Both groups were followed over a ten week period, the MBSR participants between the time they started and the time they finished the stress clinic; the other group between the time they started their pain clinic treatments and ten weeks later.

The Clinical Use of Mindfulness Meditation for the Self-Regulation of Chronic Pain

Kabat-Zinn, J.
Journal of Behavioral Medicine



75% of patients => 33% 3% decrease in pain
50% of patients => 33% 50% decrease in pain
44% of patients => 33% decreased analgesic use
28% of patients => 33% discontinued analgesics


50% of patients => 33% 33% decrease
33% of patients => 33% 50% decrease


70% still meditating at follow-up

Pain Clinic comparison group:

no significant improvement

It was known from previous studies that they could expect MBSR participants to show large reductions in pain and psychological distress on our rating scales. The question was, "How would the MBSR participants compare with other patients in the pain clinic who were not practicing mindfulness but who were receiving powerful medical treatments for pain?"  The result was that the patients who did not have MBSR showed little change over the ten weeks that they were being treated in the pain clinic, while the MBSR participants showed the expected major improvements.

Effectiveness of a Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Program in the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

Kabat-Zinn, J.
American Journal of Psychiatry


20/22 individual improvement
25-65 % decrease in mean Hamilton and Beck depression and anxiety scales
decreased frequency of panic attacks
decreased medical symptoms (MSCL)
gains maintained at 3 month follow-up
90% still using techniques at 3 months

Prevention of Relapse/Recurrence in Major Depression by Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Teasdale, et al
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology


66 % of those who learned mindfulness remained stable
  (no relapse) over 1 year, compared with 34% in a control group

Copyright © 2005–2016 — All Rights Reserved